Arkadiusz Milik’s first half hat-trick sent Napoli soaring into the Champions League Round of 16, as Genk were flattened 4-0 in a strange atmosphere.
The Partenopei had the chance to finish their Champions League group unbeaten for the first time, knowing they needed only a point against Genk to reach the Round of 16. However, they were also on a nine-game winless streak in all competition with strong reports Carlo Ancelotti would leave after this match, regardless of the result.
Allan and Arkadiusz Milik returned from injury, but Lorenzo Insigne was dropped in favour of Fabian Ruiz. Genk had Carlos Cuesta and Jere Uronen out of action.
It was an aggressive start, as Kalidou Koulibaly’s glancing header from a corner bounced off the underside of the crossbar.
Moments later, Napoli took the lead. Maarten Vandevoordt made history as the youngest goalkeeper ever in the Champions League, aged just 17 years, nine months and 10 days. The lack of experience showed, as he tried to dribble inside his six-yard box, was harassed by Mertens and allowed Milik to tap in.
Mertens dinked an effort just over the bar, while Joseph Paintsil’s rocket skimmed the upright and Paul Onuachu only hit the side-netting after Fabian Ruiz gave the ball away cheaply, sending Genk forward one-on-one.
There were few in attendance at the San Paolo and those who were present were almost silent, as ultras groups are protesting recent stadium rules.
Napoli doubled their lead when Giovanni Di Lorenzo burst down the right on an Allan pass and put in the low cross for Milik to turn in off the inside of the boot from close range.
Alex Meret had to be very alert and got his fingertips to a Junya Ito pull-back from the by-line, preventing a certain Onuachu tap-in.
Allan was having a great game and his ball over the top sent Jose Callejon running clear on goal, until he was clipped by Vandervoort’s arm. Milik converted the penalty to complete his hat-trick by the 38th minute, the first Champions League treble by a Napoli player.
Genk continued to threaten, Onuachu’s dribbling sending two Napoli defenders to ground, only to then blast over the bar from eight yards.
As things stood, Napoli would win the group, but Liverpool scored two goals in 100 seconds during the second half against RB Salzburg.
Casper De Norre charged down a Callejon volley with his hand for an inevitable penalty. This time, Milik left it to Mertens, who dinked it over the young goalkeeper with a Panenka-style finish.
Genk again failed to make the most of a promising opportunity moments later, as there was chaos in the six-yard box, Bongonda scuffed it against the base of the upright and Ianis Hagi realised he was offside, so didn’t turn in the rebound.
Napoli 4-0 Genk
Milik 3, 26, pen 38 (N), Mertens pen 75 (N)
Napoli: Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Koulibaly, Mario Rui; Callejon (Lozano 78), Allan, Zielinski (Gaetano 71), Fabian Ruiz; Mertens, Milik (Llorente 78)
Genk: Vandevoordt; Maehle, Dewaest, Lucumí, De Norre (Neto Borges 82); Hrosovsky, Berge, Ito (Hagi 72); Paintsil, Onuachu, Samatta (Bongonda 63)
Ref: Cakir (TUR)
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